As one of the biggest years for prefab in recent history, 2016 saw government policymakers and AEC professionals turn to prefabrication for far-reaching initiatives and ambitious projects. How they turn out in 2017 will have consequences for the real estate and construction industries globally.
5) Muji tests prefab house prototype
Muji is going through an expansion phase and fast becoming one of Japan’s coolest cultural exports. That’s significant prefab news because the retailer unveiled a prototype house in Kamakura, Japan in August. It plans to test the building by having a competition-winner live there for free for two years.
Reminiscent of another major retailer’s successful housing foray half a century ago (Sears and its Catalog Home), Muji is set to start the experiment this summer. It indicates a growing interest in residential prefab. Japan is the world’s largest prefabricated housing market: Will a preference for prefab spread beyond the country’s borders alongside Muji’s brand?
4) Module apartments in Manchester innovate with customization
Architects at ShedKM teamed with Urban Splash developers to build the HoUSe townhouses. Residents planned the layout of their houses before the units left the factory. The 43 houses arrived almost complete, with partition walls added on-site.
According to Dezeen, the project aimed to couple the cost benefits of modular building with the flexibility of architect-designed properties.
HoUSe gives developers a new way to think about the possibilities of modular design. The project was one of the first to combine factory manufacturing with individual customization in such a way. It also created a unique, aesthetic structure in the process.
3) UK government plans 100’000+ prefab houses to alleviate shortage
To tackle the UK’s housing crisis, Teresa May announced a goal of one million new homes by 2020. In October, government ministers revealed more than 100’000 of those could be prefabs.
“The first and most obvious advantage is speeding up the building of housing,” a government source told the Sunday Telegraph. “There is pretty good evidence that if you did it at scale it is cheaper.”
The initiative would be the largest wave of prefab houses in the UK since the post-war building boom. Many people still have those in mind when they imagine the construction method. The government push will transform how consumers and developers see prefab.
2) China aims for 30% prefab
China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development set an ambitious goal: 30% of new buildings will be prefabs by 2026. They aim to save energy, improve safety and reduce the steel industry’s excess capacity.
“Building prefabs can help reduce construction waste, dust and noise, compared with traditional cast-in-place concrete constructions,” the State Council website reported chief engineer from the Ministry as saying. “Prefabs only use 85 percent of the cement, water and wood involved in traditional construction methods.”
China is the world’s largest construction market, so the consequences will be enormous. Its prefab manufacturing industry is the world’s primary supplier for modular homes. Massive research and development will change the real estate industry around the world.
Stricter factory oversight will increase quality across the board. Furthermore, the sheer number of new projects will give researchers and developers unprecedented working experience and case studies.
1) World’s tallest modular building* opens in Brooklyn.
It’s tough being first. The world’s most high-profile prefab news saga is finally over.
The 461 Dean, often touted (incorrectly) as the world’s tallest modular building, has begun leasing apartments after a half-decade of delays and lawsuits. With the kinks smoothed over, Forest City Ratner opened America’s first modular high-rise in December. It’s 32 stories tall.
*The world’s tallest modular building is the 44-story project recently completed by the Hickory Group in Melbourne Australia. And the world’s tallest prefab building is the 57-storey Mini Sky City in Changsha, China. It was erected in just 19 days.